I so often see wanted ads for horses saying ‘No TB’s’ or people immediately turned off by the thought of an ex racehorse. This blows me away and I’ll tell you why.
The Thoroughbred horses intended for racing have gone through more handling and exposure in their short careers then many horses go through in their lives.
From birth through to yearlings these babies are continuously handled and forever around people. They may go through the sales being paraded in busy rings with loud noises and scary surroundings. From here they are broken in and are ridden and handled by all different people every day.
They go on walkers, which in appearance alone, can be a daunting experience. The movement, the noise, the claustrophobic environment.. They get swum, with many other horses never seeing bodies of water.. They are worked with other horses, with machinery around, anytime from 4am onwards mea I g they also deal with lights, shadows and quite often wildlife... This all before they even make it to a race course and also quite often before they are even 2!
If they make it to being ready to race they go through even more. To start with they are barrier trained. The barriers are actually so small. Horses only just fit in and feel pressure on both sides as well as behind. A very intense situation for anyone to be so confined, but these horses are taught to stand still, sometimes for minutes a time. In a race environment they are made to stand whilst others horses are loaded all around, some are reluctant to go forward so all other horses see and hear this commotion but are again expected to stay as still and relaxed as possible. People are all around and above with attendants being throughout the barriers, turning heads, holding tails, you name it and I’m sure they’ve done it. A race environment has jockeys and attendants yelling out to the starter, to the attendants, to each other. Again the horses are expected to stand still and wait. That is until the ‘gates crash back’ and crash they do. A sudden opening with each of the barrier openings hitting against each other and we expect the horses to ignore all of that and gallop straight past concentrating on the task ahead.
We expect these horses to be tractable enough, but also brave enough, to weave their way through the other 13 or so horses in the race. Again, yelling jockeys, kick back, new environments, all discovered at 60km/hr. We expect to have their minds on the job as they are ridden out at full speed past massive sponsor signs, artistic winning posts and gigantic television screens all with speakers all round playing the race call as it happens.
The horses are out there, trying with all their might, to come back, be hosed off and sometimes stand with 50 other horses for the rest of the day til its home time. The crowd all around, sounds, music, tents and marquees, they have seen it all. And all in one of the most high pressure environment.
They have been shod countless times, had the vet, had the dentist, had needles, all before some other horses are even broken in.
We are given the biggest head start with the ex-racehorses. From everything they have seen and have experienced, it makes show days a walk in the park.
They have seen the world ten times over before they are given an opportunity with us to realise their futures and show the world what they can do.